Traumafessions :: Reader Alex on Pipes from Ghostwatch

The most dramatic childhood horror moment for me occurred at age 13, back in 1992 during a Halloween party at my friend Charlotte’s house in Selston (not far from Nottingham).

We’d all been out with her achingly cool older brothers (early 20’s) to rent horror films (from memory, DOLLY DEAREST and POLTERGEIST 2), but having arrived back to the house at about 9pm, we switched on BBC1 to be met with a title screen for “GhostWatch”, which I’m sure you’re familiar with. Being 13, impressionable and a little immature for my age, the hour and a half-ish long mock-live “real” feed from the incredibly normal looking “haunted” house in London absolutely SHAT me up. What made it so scary was the squeaky clean presenters we all knew from kids TV – Craig Charles (of Red Dwarf fame) and Sarah Green being so incredibly convincing that the show was live.

The juxtaposition between the everyday and absolute horror was incredibly clever. We also had no idea it was a “play”. That, and the fact that the titular ghost, which we screamed at as it was glimpsed and hinted at in incredibly quick camera pans and reflective patio doors etc, was a 6 foot, cross dressing, child-murdering pedophile name “Pipes” by the (at the time) convincing child actresses portraying the two daughters.

I have never been so utterly scared in my whole life, even surrounded by 10-12 prep school mates and my hosts older brothers, because it was portrayed as being live and utterly real. So real-seeming in fact, that it I believe it was banned by the BBC. I bought it a couple of years ago via their website on DVD (the ban apparently lifted) and even at the age of 32, it’s still bloody scary. Yes, it seems hammier now, but the ghost itself, horrible cat scratching noises and the horrific croaking, gasping voice emitting from one of the daughters as she channels Pipes is still terrifying.

Even Charlotte’s older brothers were shaken up, and as we all camped out in the sitting room to sleep – I was scared stiff despite being surrounded by my friends. Usually, I’d have been fine even if I had someone with me – not with GhostWatch, and in fact had to sleep in my brother’s room on a mattress for at least a month following that night. And I don’t mind admitting that!

— quick camera pan….HOLY SHIT DID YOU SEE THAT!!!!

Thanks so much for considering posting my experience, keep up the good work!

Alex B.

UNK SEZ::Oh how I love GHOSTWATCH! It puts most faux-reality horror to absolute shame! Sorry about your trauma Alex but I stand here in utter jealousy that you got to experience GHOSTWATCH in the fullest way possible without completely loosing your mind! Kids, For more on this highly effective & influential program, check out its official site HERE! And if you’d like to watch GHOSTWATCH in it’s entirety just jump on over and meet Pipes HERE!

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9 years ago

I only first heard about Ghostwatch about a year ago… but damn! That is a scary show. It’s got the shock of the Pipes sightings as well as the total creepout lingering slowburn regarding who pipes was and what he was about.
The ending too is great, ambitious stuff. If I’d been watching as a kid it would have left me catatonic.

9 years ago

There was a recent article on this on another site where they were discussing the PTSD effects on a generation of UK kids that watched Ghostwatch. The first posters scoffed at the idea that merely watching a TV program when you were a kid could have such an effect. Then the Trauma posts started coming in – all too familiar to us Traumaniacs.

I was way too old to be screwed up by Ghostwatch when it aired, but I can fully appreciate its potential. Judging by the sheer number of kids permanently scarred by the broadcast, Ghostwatch may be the Tsar Bomb of all KinderTraumas.

The aspect of Ghostwatch that surely would have fried my brain were the intermittent glimpses of “Pipes”. The best of these is a momentary glimpse of the ghost in the girls’ bedroom. A caller contacts the show and asks about the mysterious figure. We are then shown a fake “replay” of the shot, but the actor playing Pipes was cleverly removed causing us to question whether we had actually seen anything. All around very unsettling and well done.

Brother Power
Brother Power(@fb712496614)
9 years ago

I caught up this a couple years back and even if you know the entire story, it just sucks you in. After my initial late night viewing, it took a week for me to shake it’s vibe.

unkle lancifer
unkle lancifer(@unkle-lancifer)
9 years ago

I’m so impessed by how clever they were with keeping Pipes ever present and nearly subliminal throughout. I think the ending with the idea that he has sort of gone viral through the TV is brilliant and so ahead of its time. By the time I got to see GHOSTWATCH I was completely aware of it not being real but it got to me anyway. I just wish I could have stumbled across it not knowing anything about it!

El Borak
El Borak(@el-borak)
9 years ago

wow, that was cool.

9 years ago

The author of the story, Stephen Volk, has a short story sequel called “31/10” which you can find as a PDF on his website . It’s about a tenth anniversary follow-up show. 🙂

9 years ago

Knobgobbler mentions the slow reveal of Pipes’ origin…for me the two scariest parts of Ghostwatch are two of the calls near the end of the “telecast”: the one where the caller is in a near panic talking about the broken glass cutting her husband’s hands (“There’s blood all over the walls, but the kids won’t stop watching the show!”), and the last anonymous call where the guy finally reveals who Pipes really is.

I only first found out about Ghostwatch a few years ago, so I’ve only experienced it as a jaded adult but it’s still damn creepy…I wish I could have watched it when it aired and really been fooled. I’ve showed it to people over the years and I’ve gotten a very mixed reaction…There are some powerful moments no matter what, but you do kind of have to put yourself in the mindset of someone just flipping to it and not knowing what it is, but recognizing familiar celebrities that you think you can trust…